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Temple University

1. Bresnahan, Aili. Dance As Art: A Studio-Based Account.

Degree: PhD, 2012, Temple University


This dissertation is an attempt to articulate the conviction, born of ten years of intensive experience in learning and practicing to be a dance performer, that the dance performer, through collaboration with the choreographer, makes an important contribution to how we can and do understand artistic dance performance. Further, this contribution involves on-the-fly-thinking-while-doing in which the movement of the dancer's body is run through by consciousness. Some of this activity of "consciousness" in movement may not be part of the deliberative mentality of which the agent is aware; it may instead be something that is part of our body's natural and acquired plan for how to move in the world that is shaped by years of artistic and cultural training and practice. The result is a qualitative and visceral performance that can, although need not, be a representation of some deliberative thought or intention that a dancer can articulate beforehand. It is also the sort of thinking movement that in many cases can be conceived as expression; an utterance of dance artists that is not limited to the communication of emotion that can be appreciated and understood, at least in principle, by a public or audience. What this means for the Philosophy of Dance as Art includes the following: 1) there may not always be a stable, fixed "work" of dance art that can be identified, going forward, as the only relevant work on which critical and philosophical attention should be focused because of variable, contingent and irreducibly individual features of live dance performances, attributable in large part to the efforts, style and improvisation of particular dance performers; 2) the experience of dance artists is relevant to understand dance as art because experiential evidence of practice can supplement and ground the appreciable properties that we can detect in artistic dance performances; 3) artistic dance performance can be conceived as expression without being expressive of either an artist's felt emotion or of human emotion in general - no particular content is needed as long as there is a content; 4) artistic dance performance conceived as expression can, but need not, function as representation in both the strong (imitative) and weak (referential) sense; and 5) artistic dance performance is real, not illusory and not necessarily either a transformation or transfiguration of the real. Dance as art, like theatre, like music and even, perhaps, like painting, sculpture and architecture, although in less clearly artist-present, extemporaneous and embodied ways, is human-constructed, human-understood, human-driven and a full, rich, interactive and meaningful part of human life.

Temple University – Theses

Advisors/Committee Members: Margolis, Joseph, Solomon, Miriam, Alperson, Philip, Bond, Karen E., Camp, Elisabeth.

Subjects/Keywords: Philosophy; Dance; art; dance; performance; philosophy; practice

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APA (6th Edition):

Bresnahan, A. (2012). Dance As Art: A Studio-Based Account. (Doctoral Dissertation). Temple University. Retrieved from,173544

Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition):

Bresnahan, Aili. “Dance As Art: A Studio-Based Account.” 2012. Doctoral Dissertation, Temple University. Accessed October 21, 2019.,173544.

MLA Handbook (7th Edition):

Bresnahan, Aili. “Dance As Art: A Studio-Based Account.” 2012. Web. 21 Oct 2019.


Bresnahan A. Dance As Art: A Studio-Based Account. [Internet] [Doctoral dissertation]. Temple University; 2012. [cited 2019 Oct 21]. Available from:,173544.

Council of Science Editors:

Bresnahan A. Dance As Art: A Studio-Based Account. [Doctoral Dissertation]. Temple University; 2012. Available from:,173544